Interview: ICF Global Chair - Jean-Francois Cousin

By: Jean-Francois Cousin • 7 months ago •

Interview with Jean-Francois Cousin, Speaker, Author, Master Certified Coach (ICF) and Chair of the Global Board 2019, International Coach Federation.

How did you get started in Coaching?

Around 13 years ago I started coaching and based myself in Bangkok where I had been working for 6 years as a country manager for Lafarge.

I embraced coaching for two reasons. The first was that over my career in management, the moments I had enjoyed the most always involved helping my people grow.

Seeing them find new areas of growth and blossom was very rewarding.

The second reason was that I had climbed several steps in the company’s hierarchy and to go higher would involve ‘politics’ and having my days filled with conference calls, far from people and the field.

So, I felt it was time to move on and focus on that which made my heart sing.

Was Coaching always your intention?

Up until 2006, I did not know much about coaching. When I started reflecting on what to do next, – being an engineer-, I researched all aspects of personal development practices and found that the effectiveness of coaching was already proven, and I found it attractive for many different reasons.

So, I started my coach education and completed it in 12 months.

I had the chance to practice with Bangkok-based managers during my training.

Has training delivery changed over time?

What I can see and am delighted about is a greater and greater partnership between the ICF and coach training organisations. We are together enhancing the standards of coach education, improving the quality of pedagogy and raising the engagement of students. All healthy and necessary actions to keep our profession relevant.

If I were asked for one recommendation for coach-training providers, I’d just say, create as much time as possible for practice, for ‘learning by doing’. The more students practice, the higher the quality of their presence. And they are freed earlier from the ‘performance-anxiety’ of new coaches.

What do you want to achieve in your role as Global Chair?

My role as the chair of the Global Board is for 1 year. Before being elected in that responsibility, I had served as a director on the Global Board for 2 years.

My 8 fellow directors and I have plenty of goals for this year and the next ones! We partner very closely with the ICF staff. Here are a few of the projects we are working on together:

Updating and rolling out the strategic plan for the future of coaching and of the ICF going forward. We now have over 30,000 members and we are working to support them, grow this number and boldly lead the profession in service of its members.

We are launching 4 new organisations which will bring our ICF family up to 6 sister organisations, all about creating more value for our fellow members:

The International Coach Federation (ICF), a member-focused unit, exists to lead the global advancement of the coaching profession. This will, for the most part, not change.

The ICF Foundation was established in 2004 and continues to connect and equip professional coaches and organizations to accelerate and amplify the impact on social progress through coaching.

1. The first new organisation will be the Thought Leadership Institute which will bring together thought leaders, scientists and academics to think about the future of coaching. We will also welcome leaders of various professions with the intention of having a great influence for coaching to best serve the future of our world.

2. The second new organisation will be Coaching in Organisations – in support of the wellbeing and progress of organisations and in support of our members in their coaching journey within organisations.

3. The third new organisation will be focused on credentialing. It will continue to enhance the standards of service and heighten the credibility and value of coaching.

4. The fourth new organisation will support training schools and programs. It will support members in their training journey.

Those new sister-organizations will create a lot more opportunities for volunteer-leaders to support the profession. Just a few of the new roles will be taken by current ICF board members, to ensure the necessary continuity in strategy, but the vast majority of the new roles will be open to new people so they can help shape the future of coaching and bring new ideas and opportunities to the profession.

Each of the 6 sister-organizations will have their own boards and some advisory councils. We are very excited by the opportunity for more of our fellow members to play an active role in the future of coaching!

We are currently working with a branding agency, forming the boards, completing all the necessary admin work, and we hope that by January 2020, each of these organisations will be ready to go. It has taken 3 years to get to this point, and it is important to make sure everything is done right so we don’t have much course correction to do later on.

Every member from every country is most welcome to participate – we are so keen and proud to continue our journey of diversity and inclusion.

In January 2020, the next global chair will support those sister organisations to take shape, in partnership with ICF Global Board and staff. Please check for updates and new opportunities!

How does a coach become involved?

The opportunities to become a member of the Global Board are advertised in the monthly members’ update and the monthly ICF leaders update. There are application links in those publications.

We wish that all our fellow members contribute to the maximum so that we can write the story altogether. ICF is for our members and is our members.

There is a growing aspiration in our community of coaches to really serve and to help make the world a better and more sustainable place. The values that we, coaches, uphold are so very healthy for the world. We can see how leaders in organisations become coaches and I believe it is time for coaches to step up their own leadership around the world.

What have you read recently?

I just read ‘Trillion Dollar Coach’. This book examines the management lessons from legendary coach and business executive Bill Campbell, whose coaching and mentoring of some of our most successful modern entrepreneurs have helped create well over a trillion dollars in market value.

Jean-Francois serves on the Global Board of the International Coaching Federation and was elected its Chair for 2019.

Jean-François Cousin became a global executive coach in 2006, in the wake of a management career around the world with a Fortune- 500 company. By June ’18, he had clocked 10,000 coaching-hours, served over 800 executives and dozens of executive teams, travelling to 35 countries / 5 continents to work with them.

He authored the book Game Changers at the Circus—How Leaders Can Unleash Greatness in Their Organizations, co-authored several other books and regularly writes columns for the media.

For more information visit

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